Monday, April 20, 2009

Holocaust Memorial Day, Durban II, and the occupation

Tomorrow is Holocaust Memorial Day, the official day for commemorating the victims of the Nazi genocide. Today, at the Durban II conference in Geneva, Holocaust-denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave a keynote address. Even before he spoke, the fact that he was given this world stage illustrates the absurd setting in which we - all of us - try to navigate the complicated dynamics of racism, human rights, nationalism, morality, and of course genocide in the early 21st century. That there are deniers of the Nazi genocide of Jews and others is a fact; that they are world leaders granted legitimacy on the topic of racism & oppression, such as on the stage at Durban, is a terrible shame. On the other side, many people and politicians who call themselves Israel supporters use the history of the Holocaust to shade Israel's human rights abuses and. What we need is not more blunt-force polemic, but careful, sensitive analysis that emphasizes and perpetuates livable lives for all. What do we learn
from the Nazi genocide? If the only answer is that it existed, that is something - but it's not good enough.

Here are three good thinkers to listen to today:

1) Cecilie Surasky of Jewish Voice for Peace is at the Durban II conference. Her reports are invaluable. You can see them here: Surasky's last post said she was on her way to the Holocaust Remembrance event taking place in Geneva tonight, so we can expect a post about that soon, too. Check regularly for her updates.

2) Gideon Levy wrote a useful and important column on comparisons between the occupation and the Nazi genocide. He says, "There is no one absolute evil. Comparison between the Israeli occupation and Nazism is like comparing an elephant to a fly," but, he continues, "Israel in 2009 is beginning to resemble 1930s Germany more and more." Racism against Palestinians inside of Israel bears resemblance to the 1930s. And fenced-in Qalqilya, the West Bank Palestinian city, looks "a concentration camp" - which is "not an extermination camp." Here's the article:

3) Roger Cohen wrote another exciting column in the New York Times. He's on a roll; check his back columns to read his courageous, smart insight into Iran, Israel, and U.S. policy. ( Today he writes about Germany, Israel, and moving on after World War II. He notes that "uncertainty does not so much hang over the country as inhabit its very fiber." Notions of fear and vulnerability permeate (and are invoked by politicians and spokespeople for Israel) - yet Israel is strong: it has a nuclear arsenal, peace with Egypt and Jordan, and a "cast-iron security guarantee" from the U.S. So what would moving on from the Nazi genocide look like for Israel? Cohen ends with this message "Closure is the overcoming of horror. It is the achievement of normality through responsibility. It cannot be attained through the inflation of threats, the perpetuation of fears, or retreat into the victimhood that sees every act,
however violent, as defensive." (

These sources are three among many who honor and draw lessons from the horror of the Nazi genocide while insisting that we act boldly for full human rights. We need to hear more of their voices and amplify them.

Sarah Anne Minkin

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Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
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1 comment:

Beatriz (Spain) said...

Dear JPN friends. Thank you very much for your labour, your informations, your articles... I like to hear your voices. The voices we can hardly hear in the great mass media. During the killings in Gaza at the end of the last year and the 2009 beginning and during all these months your voices have been very important for me, they still are and so they will continue.

I wish one day there could be justice and peace.

Thank you again. Sincerely,

M. Beatriz Tostado